Hear ye, hear ye! Welcome to the World’s Faire!!
This week, we set out to explore the far away land of 1893 Chicago. Dark, damp and full of grim, it was an area that was known for its slaughterhouses rather than its beautiful landscapes. It was a city that was considered second if not third to New York and
Washington and did not possess the class and extravagance needed to represent the United States and show up the Paris Exposition that had occurred previously.
But…..(there is always a but)
But one man, Daniel Burnham, had a different vision in mind. It was through his creativity, panache, and spunk that he took the blank, unkempt space of Jackson Park and turned it into a space that would forever have an impact on American history and be known to all as “The White City”. His designs created an event of majesty and impact that would bring forth such items as cracker jacks, the first moving sidewalks, and the Ferris Wheel into the public’s view. Future pioneers such as Helen Keller and Alexander Graham Bell were among those that graced the ground and found equal amazement at the various exhibitions present throughout the 630 acres of fairgrounds.
However, not only did it bring out the revelation and discovery in those that attended as well as those who designed and built it, it also allow for those of a more sinister nature to emerge. Herman Webster Mudgett aka H.H. Holmes utilized this opportunity of a growing population, an estimated 27 million that were comprised mainly of tourists, to further his desires for torture, mayhem, and murder. It is said that during this time period and even in the years leading up to the start of the Colombian Exposition, that he
killed an estimated 100 people if not more.
At 67th and Wallace, Holmes built a three-story World’s Fair Hotel that would later become known as his “murder castle.” It was here that he built his house of horrors, filled with stairways that led to nowhere, doors that opened into brick walls and others outfitted with locks that would seal a person inside. He had peep holes in many of the rooms so he could watch his victims as well as gas lines placed so he could pump in poisonous chemicals and suck the life right out of them.
The Devil in the White City is a tale of the two men, Burnham and Holmes, and how their lives interacted on one another and ultimately influenced one other. It was the wonder and desire of the faire that Burnham sought to create while Holmes worked to exploit.
Erik Larson weaves a tale of of suspense and intrigue through the use of an unbridled factual platform. Every page, the reader is learning how the faire came to light and all the heartache and back-breaking torment that went into its arrival as well as the beauty and style it graced on the faire-goers. They learn of the the problems Chicago presented such as the soft, watery soil that the architects had to combat in order to build stable foundations for their massive venues and in the same chapter, empowers the readers’ imaginations with the criminal aspects of Holmes’ activities as he gives just enough information on his actions, but leaves the grisly details to individual interpretation.
All-in-all, the book is perfect for those who love historical non-fiction. It identifies real events that occurred in our nation’s history and propels the reader into the story in a way that you have to remember that it really happened and its not simply a fictional tale. It appeals to those true crime lovers out there as well as the history buffs that like to take a peek into our founding days.
Overall, give yourself some extra time when reading this one as the flip-flop style of Larson can prove a little tough due to all the characters presented through the book.
BUT!!! You know what’s not tough….
CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE!
Did I mention we made cake this week?
I had hoped to try and do a faire themed food to go along with this week’s book, but ultimately couldn’t find one that I was satisfied with to try. I always try and find a recipe that is challenging to me in some way so that I can try and learn or work on a skill or at the very least, sound appealing.
I ended up running into this one in search of a birthday cake recipe for a member of The Group as her birthday was Monday. I went through tons of recipes searching for the faire them and kept coming back to this one to try. Only problem was I procrastinated a little too long and ran myself short on time! As a result, I modified the original recipe over to use a box cake instead of making the base.
Yes I know…..bad Chelsey…..lazy Chelsey……
BUT WAIT!!!!! Before you judge me too hard, sometimes we all have life and its problems running in our way and have to take a shortcut to get the job done. (Not that I’d always advise it, but in this case, it happened to work for me). I have included the recipe I chose to you as well as a link with the actual base in case you’d like to try either one.
So despite the fact that I didn’t know what her favorite type of cake, you ultimately can’t go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter soooooooo I present…
Chocolate Peanut Butter Explosion Cake!
TOTAL TIME: 1:05
FOR THE CAKE
- 1 box Devil’s Food Cake
- 1 small package chocolate pudding
- 1 c. sour cream
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 c. water
FOR THE PEANUT BUTTER FROSTING
- 2 c. unsalted butter
- 9 c. powdered sugar
- 1 1/4 c. creamy peanut butter
- 6-7 tbsp. whole milk
FOR THE GANACHE
- 3/4 c. heavy cream
- 1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
FOR THE TOPPING
- 10 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, halved, for topping
- 1/2 c. Reese’s pieces, for topping
- Preheat oven to 350° and spray two 9″ cake pans with cooking spray. In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat cake mix, chocolate pudding, sour cream, eggs and water.
- Divide batter among prepared pans and bake roughly 32-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. In another large bowl using a hand mixer, beat butter until smooth. Add about half the powdered sugar and half of the milk, beat until smooth. Add peanut butter and continue to beat until smooth. Add remaining powdered sugar and beat until smooth. (Add additional milk as needed, to thin out the frosting.) Cool in fridge with making the ganache.
- To make the ganache, heat heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat just until it bubbles. Add chocolate chips in the pan, continually stirring to ensure the chocolate doesn’t burn. Once fully mixed smooth with no clumps, remove from heat and place into a squeezable bottle and allow to cool lightly, luke warm. *
- To assemble the cake, level cake layers with a large serrated knife. (I chose to do three layers for this cake due to the amount of frosting I make, but you can simply remove the rounded portion of one of the cakes to level it and you can have a two tiered cake) Place a dab of frosting on a cake circle and top with the first cake layer.
- Top cake with 1 cup frosting and smooth into an even layer. Top cake with second cake layer, then frost outside of cake with remaining frosting.
- Drizzle ganache down the sides of the cake, then spiral ganache on top of cake and smooth top. Pipe a line of frosting around the top edge of the cake to use to build the candy ring around.
- Top frosting ring with Reese’s and Reese’s Pieces. (Cake can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3 days.)
*Usually I would simply pipe the ganache out of a piping bag, but I saw this rather cool video in which they piped the topping with the use of a plastic squeeze bottle, similar to a ketchup/mustard bottle. Since I didn’t have one, I had a leftover Hershey’s syrup bottle that I reused for this purpose and it worked out beautifully.
If no bottle is available, you can also pipe out of a plastic bag. Just simply snip the tip on one of the corner, but just make sure the ganache is cooled enough before placing it into the bag. I ran into this problem when I piped the cake. I should have let it sit a little longer and it wouldn’t have flowed as much over the sides.
Also, I was a little too focused on my husband taking the pictures rather than watching myself pour the ganache. Need to figure out a way to grow more hands…..
The recipe for the chocolate base can be found here: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake